Dan Bladen: The Innovation Interview

Dan Bladen, Founder & Director of chargifi shares his thoughts and insights on innovation, technology and the future of wireless charging.

Dan is the playmaking ideas man and the founder of chargifi. He is passionate about using the latest technologies to solve everyday problems; creating efficient systems that do the hard work.

Dan’s teenage summers were spent at trade shows selling ride-on lawnmowers for his father’s garden machinery company, playing with network components and praying that Norwich City would be better the following season.

Since then, Dan has been involved variously in the arenas of technology, music, management and sales. Prior to chargifi he oversaw a team of 50 and managed the practical completion of IT & Production for a £6.5 million building project. Dan has a BA in Theology.

Dan is quick to spot and embrace innovation and is an early adopter of anything to do with the ‘Internet of Things.’ Dan enjoys the theatre of people’s reactions to new technology.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

Innovation is a balance of laziness and perseverance. A good example of this is the guy who invented the TV remote control, a hero of our time! He invested time and effort to figure out a way to save a lot of time and effort.

I’m a big fan of systems that work like this, for me the dishwasher is a great trade-off between setup, process and results. You invest time stacking it – hit go – it does the hard work. That is what innovation means to me. Creating products and systems that do the heavy the lifting.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

The majority of my family is in the medical industry so I need to tread lightly. With that being stated, I find the National Health Services system in the UK for booking and monitoring my health to be somewhat archaic.

The idea of having to call up at a particular time to book a doctors appointment in two weeks time does not make sense to me now, and certainly isn’t going to make sense to the next generation.

One of the great things about the NHS is that the system can pool resources. There is not another health care system in the world that has the ability to command the amount of value the NHS does.

The ability to order 10 million needles for example, or 40,000 prosthetic hips is an unrivalled luxury that the NHS has when dealing with suppliers. If the NHS could leverage the same buying power to develop applications that could remotely monitor the health of a nation, it would add significant value for all stakeholders in the healthcare chain. Health as digital service would be nice.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

My Dad always told me – ‘there’s always a way.’ Whatever problem we’re trying to solve, be that in business or everyday life, there is always a way. This attitude breeds great confidence.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

The design and completion of communications and AV systems in a brand new multimillion-pound public building in West London.

Seeing people today use the systems that my team and I designed and built three years ago is really rewarding. Apart from that it has to be marrying my wife. She is a hero. She puts up with all the nervy days that every entrepreneur has and celebrates alongside me on the triumphant days as well.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

Digital. I enjoy physical books but the Kindle Paperwhite and is near perfect. My wife I travelled around the world for 6 months in 2012 we had iPhones and an iPad with us but we both fought over the Kindle. Apart from the obvious instant access to any book that you want, the main advantage for me is the ability to annotate notes and have it immediately backed up on the Kindle Cloud. It’s also much lighter to hold above your head on a beach than an iPad.

What is the future of wireless charging and how are you planning to position chargifi for this trend in the marketplace?

The future of wireless charging changes every week as people push the physical barriers of what’s physically possible. We will eventually see the end of the charging cable. It’s the last cable to be cut.

Furniture, buildings and vehicles will all be equipped with wireless charging transmitters. They will be a blend of high powered transmitters and low powered ‘trickle transmitters’ that act to constantly keep your devices topped up.

Users will be surrounded by a network of wireless charging spots and will not have to think about their phone ever running out of power. At Chargifi we are all about building a network platform that sits on top of wireless charging.

Today that looks like locating a chargifi user, activating the chargifi spot nearest to them and providing them with power. Through this process we have an opportunity to communicate with a user in a specific location. We’re not just looking at phones, we’ll be announcing partnerships for wirelessly charging much larger devices in the next couple of months.

How are the venues that partner with chargifi using the anonymized Facebook data that you share with them? Have these venues seen an uptake in business / revenue since they first installed chargifi?

Similar to many companies, we hash users data to anonymise them to venue owners so the barista doesn’t know a customer’s name or email. We call this Fair Trade Data and it works a bit like a Fair Trade banana.

Data is responsibly sourced and provides value and protection to all parties involved. Everyone’s a winner. People are already realising the value of their data. I believe it won’t be too long before it functions in the same way as any other currency.

What are the benefits of being a startup that is based in Great Britain?

In Great Britain we have been really fortunate to be under a government that is actively helping entrepreneurs. Schemes like SEIS and EIS make it much easier to raise funds from angel investors. We also benefit greatly from Patent Box, a scheme that lowers the tax rate for British companies who generate revenue from their patent portfolios. In my opinion these schemes aren’t championed enough.

I think it’s also fair to say that being a ‘London Startup’ is really powerful. Whether we are in the Middle East, Singapore or Russia selling Chargifi to venues, the power of a London brand is not to be under estimated. That said, I think the property market in London hampers entrepreneurs dramatically and I think we would see a lot more innovation if property was somewhat more reasonably priced.

When will we start to see chargifi integrations with OEM’s, car manufacturers and commercial airlines?

Yes and no. We’re not a hardware company. Though we have developed a piece of network hardware that we call the ‘Chargifi Gateway’ we work with suppliers to source the best wireless charging transmitters on the market.

You will soon see us partnering with airlines and car manufactures but not as hardware providers – Chargifi will be the software platform and brand on top of OEM integrations. We will be in 10 countries by the end of this year with the goal of 20,000 venues over the next 24 months.

As individuals who travel frequently, it would be great to have a national chargifi network at a retailer such as Starbucks. Is this something that you are currently working on? If not, what are your overall thoughts on this concept?

I’m really excited to say that after a year of Beta Testing Chargifi all over the UK, you will see Chargifi start to be rolled out in high street coffee chains in London starting in Q4 this year.

We have also been able to sign up some amazing international hotel chains which means that you will be able to travel to a different country without needing to bring a power adapter with you. You will also see us developing beyond wireless charging of mobile phones and tablets. It has always been personal goal of mine to Chargifi my Macbook and I am excited to say we are getting closer to that day.